City Council approves ordinance to penalize for false alarms

Community News

COLUMBUS, Ga (WRBL) – The City of Columbus has approved a proposal to do something about the huge volume of false alarm emergency calls.

Council contracted an independent security company that will help manage the new ordinance.

Assistant Chief of Police Gil Slouchik and Fire Chief Ricky Shores initially proposed the idea to Mayor Skip Henderson and council members on November 5, 2019.

Slouchik told News 3, his patrol officers were sent to nearly 22,000 false alarm calls in 2019. The Columbus Fire Department says they were called out on about 2,500 calls.

What is a false alarm?: According to the written proposal, it means “the activation of an alarm system to summon public safety which occurs as a result of mechanical or electronic failure, malfunction, improper installation, or the negligence of the alarm user or his employees or agents, unless the public safety response was canceled by the alarm user or his agent before public safety personnel arrived at the alarm location. An alarm is false when, upon determination by the responding officer, no unauthorized entry, robbery, or other crime was committed or attempted in or on the premises, or when no medical emergency or fire exists which would have activated a properly functioning alarm system.

“Every alarm in Columbus requires at least two police cars and a minimum of 30 minutes to an hour to investigate. So you know 22,000 that’s a lot of wasted man-hours,” says Slouchik.

And with the shortage of Columbus first responders, every hour is crucial.

“So, we looked at what some other cities were doing to reduce their false alarm. Not trying to re-invent the wheel, just looking at what worked in other places.”

And what worked – was hiring a third party to manage the consequences of false alarms. City Council approved a new ordinance that would fine not only homeowners but business owners as well for false alarm calls.

So how does this affect you?

“There’s a rate scale: your first alarm, of course, is free. Your second one, it’s a $50 fine or you can choose to attend an alarm training school which is online, it’s free, but you can choose to do that which makes your second alarm free,” says Slouchik.

The third-party company, Central Square, will also help register your security alarm. However, failure to register will cost you $100.

“What we’re looking at is the people who they know they’re alarms aren’t working, they know they’ve got an issue and they continue to set the alarm and leave and we know the alarm is going to go off and you want the police to go out there – well get your alarm fixed,” Slouchik continues.

He believes that just like the other cities, Columbus will see a reduction in false alarm calls. No one will be fined until the local law is up and running. This will give everyone time to make sure their alarm is working properly.

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